OAKLAND — You may think the Raiders were awful on Sunday, losing their final game of the season — a home game — by the crushing score of 34-14.
Don't rush to judgment.
In the first half, when the game was still a game, sort of, the Raiders held the Denver Broncos to a field goal on one of the Broncos' five possessions. True, it felt like the Broncos scored touchdowns on each possession. But they didn't. The Raiders heroically rose up and held them to a field goal on their third possession.
The Raiders sure made a statement on that one. The other four Denver possessions did result in touchdowns, but if you judge the Raiders on those, you are nitpicking.
True, the Raiders scored no points in the first half — they trailed 31-zip at halftime. And they permitted Peyton Manning to break the single-season record for passing yardage. He broke it so fast the Broncos put him on the bench in the second half. But Manning could have broken the record against any number of teams.
The Raiders actually scored two touchdowns of their own in the second half, both passes by Terrelle Pryor, who got the start for reasons which still seem obscure. True, he threw his touchdown passes after the Broncos took out a host of defensive starters and put in the scrubs and maybe a ball boy or two and someone's uncle from his mother's side.
And that proves something essential. When the Raiders play a team as crummy as they are, they can compete. That just shows how well-coached they are. And the credit for that coaching, of course, goes to head coach Dennis Allen. Sure, his team lost its last six in a row, eight of nine if you're keeping count. But, according to him, the team made progress from last season even though it finished with the same 4-12 record. But this season's 4-12 apparently was a "good" 4-12.
It was so good, in fact, Allen expects to return next season. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Here are some more good things to take away from Sunday. The crowd started booing the home team with 2:33 left in the first quarter. That is later than usual and indicates progress.
Although the Raiders did not know how to tackle, didn't seem to try, very few of them suffered injuries. And that is encouraging if you're a person who loves your fellow man. The Raiders are lovers.
After the game, Allen came to the interview room. He rarely shows emotion and he always acts like his team almost won. God love him.
Here are some of his remarks.
"We got beat by a better team today."
That remark is ambiguous. It either means, "We lost on Sunday to a team that is better than us all of the time." Or it means, "The Broncos were better than us on this one Sunday and only this one Sunday."
You make the call.
Allen: "We wanted to play better in the first half."
He sure didn't want to play worse.
Allen: "There were some positives in the game. The blocked punt was a positive."
Have you ever seen a man reaching — straining — for a positive?
High school football
This week's Press Democrat high school football outlook:
Tonight's large-school games
Montgomery (4-0) at Ukiah (2-2), 8 p.m.: Vikings have to regroup
after last week's false start -- practicing all week then having
Santa Rosa forfeit Saturday's game -- but Wildcats probably don't
have the firepower to stay with Jason Franci's No.2-ranked crew.
Casa Grande (1-3) at Healdsburg (3-1), 7 p.m.: Greyhounds are not
as strong as in recent years, but should still have the goods to hold
off the Gauchos.
Petaluma (3-1) at Analy (2-2), 7 p.m.: Trojans should be able to
wear down the Tigers, but Analy can make it close by exercising some
Rancho Cotate (2-2) at River City (2-2), 7:30 p.m.: Cougars have
been up and down and won a dramatic game (22-21) over Piner last
week. River City comes off a win over Marysville.
Saturday's large-school games
Santa Rosa (0-4) vs. Cardinal Newman (4-0) at Bailey Field, 7:30
p.m.: Panthers have nothing to lose, but it's unlikely Cardinals will
look past them. CN coach Ed Monahan is painfully aware an underdog SR
squad was the last NBL team to beat his club, 13-10, in 1993. Cards
have won 12 straight league games since then.
Sonoma (2-1) at El Molino (3-1), 1 p.m.: Dragons' offense has come
to life, so Lions face the same problem they did vs. Petaluma: Hang
on to the ball or suffer the consequences.
Piner (0-4) at Elsie Allen (1-3), 1 p.m.: Big game for both teams
looking for a league win. Lobos came on strong in loss to Ukiah
(26-20) last week, while Piner lost a tough one (22-21) to Rancho.
Tonight's small-school games
Clear Lake at Arcata: Cardinals must regroup following collapse
against St. Vincent last week.
Upper Lake at Kelseyville: Indians are riding three-game win
streak but can't take Cougars lightly.
Middletown at Cloverdale: This should be an excellent matchup.
Middletown by a field goal.
Galena (Reno) at Lower Lake: This should be a good warm-up for the
Cougars before starting league play.
Saturday's small-school games
Round Valley at Potter Valley: Look for Fred Austin to earn 100th
victory. Wildcats by a bunch.
Willits at Berean Christian: Couple of years ago this would have
been a goody. Willits looks overmatched this year.
South Fork at St. Vincent: Mustangs should breeze in this one.
Calistoga at Point Arena: Calistoga makes first NCL III appearance
since dropping down. Pirates should prevail.
Hoopa at Fort Bragg: Jason Powers is back and so are Timberwolves.
Laytonville at Mendocino: Mendocino has lost last two meetings but
should make amends this season.
Tomales at Ferndale: Braves could be in for another long